Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Formative Childhood Experiences: Denmark Recreation Center

BOND: Let’s go back to the Denmark Recreation Center. This was a privately established place?

SELLERS: The Denmark Recreation Center is a non-profit. It’s truly — it’s a cinderblock building with two rooms in the back. One is a very small 8’by 8’ room that’s a closet where we put all of our football equipment for football season. The other room to the right in the back is a kitchen where all you had was a stove, a window, and a refrigerator. And the rest of it’s open area. And it was a place where they didn’t turn away kids. It might’ve been $30 to come for the summer. It was maybe an eight-week program, ten-week program and it was $30, and Miss Brenda Jeffrey who I’ll never forget — she was a teacher at the primary school in Denmark, she kind of orchestrated the curriculum and my father and Mr. Jeffrey, Miss Brenda’s husband, and Mr. Alfred Myers — they were the four who I remember so vividly and they would be there every day and we would have the lunch program and before the lunch program would come, we would — my dad or someone, they would go and put together money and they would bring us like chicken snack boxes from Hardee’s until the lunch program started.

I don’t remember one white kid that went there, but that’s because in Denmark, the white community is an older community. And their kids, they did go to primary school and they did interact with African Americans, but by the time that I came along, they were all older and gone. There aren’t very many young white youth in the city of Denmark, so out of this recreation center stemmed our youth soccer, youth baseball, youth basketball, and youth football programs. And that’s what we talk about today and that’s what kind of carried us through and we didn’t — I mean, everybody looked forward to that trip to Carowinds, but we didn’t miss anything. I mean, that’s what we knew. That’s what we grew up on, and we really didn’t miss anything.